Although a career in legal aid is challenging due to the red tape surrounding a client’s eligibility, it is extremely important for the UK that we have a new generation of legal aid lawyers coming through. Why?
Because those who are eligible for legal aid funding enabling them to access legal services are often the most vulnerable people in our society. Without legal aid services, someone who simply doesn’t have the money to pay for representation and have someone professional give them a voice would be denied the right of access to justice. And this is a basic human right.
Legal aid lawyers are passionate lawyers – we do our jobs because we care. We do it with love. Often we are so intent on getting these clients through that we are more focused on their wellbeing than our own. It’s not an easy career choice. In fact, there is currently a high level of burnout; far too many good lawyers are leaving this critical area of law.
At the same time, there are not enough junior lawyers choosing a career in legal aid. Perhaps this is because legal aid isn’t being talked about as being a vital resource. Law students may be made aware of the existence of legal aid, but there is no in-depth debate about how important it is – and little discussion about the option of legal aid as a potential career, one which provides a huge amount of job satisfaction.
There is a real risk that the current generation may be the last of the legal aid lawyers. This would be a huge mistake and a massive loss to the legal profession. No part of the country is immune to having vulnerable people within the community. Indeed, Exeter has its fair share, people who are suffering from domestic abuse, who can’t get access to their own children, who may be faced with a forced marriage – and these are just a few examples. Unfortunately, there just aren’t enough legal aid lawyers to go around.
So what can be done?
A YouGov survey from June 2021 suggested that Generation Z are purpose-led: 49% say they will work for a purpose-driven company for a 20% lower salary on average whilst 4 out of 10 are willing to accept less salary to work for a purpose-driven company. So it would make sense to highlight the chance for a career in legal aid that would actually make a difference. Supporting clients who would not otherwise be able to access legal advice is so satisfying.
At The Family Law Company we champion legal aid every day. We encourage our legal aid lawyers by investing in training, wellbeing and career progression, as part of our long-term strategy to make legal aid as rewarding as any job in the city.
Because while a career in legal aid is tough – and isn’t for everyone – for those who feel driven to support the vulnerable in our society and the legal principle of ‘justice for all’ there is no better opportunity for job satisfaction.
Our company was founded in 1994 to help the vulnerable and we are certainly not about to turn our backs on them now.